The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
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At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth.
The River of Doubt—it is a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon that snakes through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world. Indians armed with poison-tipped arrows haunt its shadows; piranhas glide through its waters; boulder-strewn rapids turn the river into a roiling cauldron.
After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find, the first descent of an unmapped, rapids-choked tributary of the Amazon. Together with his son Kermit and Brazil’s most famous explorer, Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Roosevelt accomplished a feat so great that many at the time refused to believe it. In the process, he changed the map of the western hemisphere forever.
Along the way, Roosevelt and his men faced an unbelievable series of hardships, losing their canoes and supplies to punishing whitewater rapids, and enduring starvation, Indian attack, disease, drowning, and a murder within their own ranks. Three men died, and Roosevelt was brought to the brink of suicide. The River of Doubt brings alive these extraordinary events in a powerful nonfiction narrative thriller that happens to feature one of the most famous Americans who ever lived.
From the soaring beauty of the Amazon rain forest to the darkest night of Theodore Roosevelt’s life, here is Candice Millard’s dazzling debut.
Fiala, “Two Years in the Arctic,” McClure’s Magazine, Feb. 1906. The trucks, which belonged Miller, In the Wilds. According to Rondon Esther de Viveiros, Rondon: Conta Sua Vida (Rio de Janeiro, 1958). “Truth to tell” Zahm, Through South America’s Southland. “Whites, Indians” Ibid. “ignorant and careless negro” John Zahm to TR, March 14, 1914, TPR. “measure of how much” Viveiros, Rondon: Conta Sua Vida. “The colonel possesses” Todd A. Diacon, “Are the Good Guys Always Bad?” Annual Meeting
political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States,” Roosevelt declared as he defined his corollary to Congress on December 6, 1904. “Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society . . . may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.” Roosevelt went on to add that the
Desowitz, Robert S. The Malaria Capers: Tales of Parasites and People. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1991. Diacon, Todd A. Stringing Together a Nation: Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon and the Construction of a Modern Brazil, 1906–1930. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004. Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999. Dolnick, Edward. Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell’s 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy
jungle around them was teeming with life. While on land, the members of the expedition could not sit, step, lean, or stand without entangling themselves in the predatory ambitions of some creature or, more often, hundreds of creatures of the Amazon. Yet the same evolutionary competition that filled each branch, shadow, and muddy puddle with an unparalleled diversity of living things also ensured that those forms of life were virtually invisible to Roosevelt and his men. Those glimpses of activity
During his last term in the White House, he had invited the naturalist John Burroughs to Pine Knot, his presidential retreat in rural Virginia, to help him name the local birds. It was a day that Burroughs would never forget. “Together we identified more than seventy-five species of birds and wild fowl. He knew them all but two, and I knew them all but two,” Burroughs later recalled. “A few days before he had seen Lincoln’s sparrow in an old weedy field. On Sunday after church, he took me there